Injuries play their part in any club’s fortunes and Fremantle should improve as the season progresses when key pillars Alex Pearce, Joel Hamling, Matt Taberner and hopefully Hogan return.
By all accounts Longmuir is a man of his word, and believes clear communication and forging relationships with every one of his players is primary to success.
To this end, expect emerging midfield talents Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra, fringe dwellers Mitch Crowden and Taylin Duman and spare utilities Griffin Logue and Brennan Cox to improve as Longmuir gives them every chance and encouragement to cement a spot in Freo’s best 22 early on.
After highly impressive coaching stints at West Coast and Collingwood, former favourite son Longmuir will have a longer honeymoon period than most but one Dockers fans will still analyse closely as they look for signs of hope the club is moving forward in the post-Lyon era.
5 THINGS TO WATCH:
(1) Ball use: the bane of the club seemingly since inception, Longmuir has promised to improve the squad’s skills and, with a less congested game plan, better efficiency from players can be expected after they ranked last for kicking efficiency last season (60.9%).
(2) Developing rookies: the club’s three top 10 draft picks in Hayden Young, Caleb Serong and Liam Henry should see significant action in 2020 and fans have high hopes the trio and potential excitement machine Michael Frederick (pick no.61) improve more rapidly under Longmuir than what Brayshaw (no.2) and Cerra (no.5) did under Lyon.
(3) Game style: the ‘more balanced’ game style Longmuir mooted when appointed has been seen in the pre-season through less handball and more short kicks and uncontested marks, which help the side retain possession and control tempo to complement more transition into attack through the middle of the ground. Good ball use will be imperative to the new coach’s plan succeeding.
(4) Injury list: the Dockers were hit with injuries early this campaign after several talls suffered a spate of lower leg setbacks last season. How training and medical assessment protocols stack up in 2020 will be crucial, with Blake Acres (hamstring), Hamling (ankle), Stephen Hill (quad), David Mundy (leg), Pearce (ankle) and Nathan Wilson (toe) to all miss chunks of the first half of the year.
(5) Keeping cool: the Dockers could conceivably be near the bottom of the ladder come their round 13 bye and the calm Longmuir will feel considerable heat as his injury-riddled squad try to stay on board with his game plan while waiting for key personnel to return. Keeping cool if that crisis plays out will be key to players and fans maintaining belief and the second half of the year bearing fruit.
Darcy Tucker – captain Fyfe believes the 23-year-old is ready to step up to elite category and Fremantle needs more of them in a midfield now bereft of Lachie Neale and Brad Hill.
Rory Lobb – the 203cm’s durability will be more crucial than ever given his ability to ruck and run and be a nuisance up forward for opposition backmen, with injuries to key players in those areas.
Cam McCarthy – in and out of the side last season despite regular bags of goals up forward, the 24-year-old has had a great pre-season, is a wonderful kick and can create opportunities on a wing.
Nat Fyfe – the reigning Brownlow Medallist is one of the best contested marks in the game and an uncanny proposition in attack. If Freo’s younger mids can hold their own during games, it will release the captain to capitalise on his dominance up forward.
Stephen Hill – with his brother now running around with St Kilda, the injury-plauged but dynamic Hill must get his body right and then run riot like the days of old to break open defences and give the side’s transition game that added silk and edge.
Ins: Blake Acres (St Kilda), James Aish (Collingwood), Isaiah Butters (Claremont), Michael Frederick (Woodville-West Torrens), Liam Henry (Claremont), Jarvis Pina (Peel Thunder), Caleb Serong (Gippsland U18), Leno Thomas (Claremont), Hayden Young (Dandenong U18)
Outs: Hayden Ballantyne (delisted), Harley Bennell (Melbourne), Brad Hill (St Kilda), Scott Jones (delisted), Ed Langdon (Melbourne), Shane Kersten (delisted), Ryan Nyhuis (delisted), Aaron Sandilands (retired)
B: Nathan Wilson, Joel Hamling, Luke Ryan
HB: Reece Conca, Alex Pearce, Connor Blakely
C: Brett Bewley, Adam Cerra, Stephen Hill
HF: Jesse Hogan, Matt Taberner, Darcy Tucker
F: Andrew Brayshaw, Rory Lobb, David Mundy
R: Sean Darcy, Nat Fyfe, Michael Walters
I: Cam McCarthy, Griffin Logue, Blake Acres, James Aish
David writes about sports and lifestyle for WAtoday.